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    Modifying Connecticut Restraining & Protective Orders

    If you were arrested in Connecticut for Disorderly Conduct or any other Connecticut domestic violence crime, then a top domestic violence court has issued or will issue some form of a criminal protective order or criminal restraining order against you. As the best local protective order lawyers agree, domestic violence courts in Connecticut will hold a restraining order hearing and then issue a protective order the very first time a domestic violence defendant appears in court, which is usually the next business morning after a Connecticut domestic violence arrests. This hearing is critical, as three categories of protective orders or restraining orders can be issued, which in some cases can forbid you from returning to your own home for weeks, or even seeing or speaking to your spouse and children. Unfortunately, top domestic violence crime attorneys and lawyers often get called in too late—after the hearing, when it is too late for them to assist at the restraining order hearing.

    The good news, however, is that it’s not too late to file a motion with the Connecticut domestic violence court to modify the criminal protective order or convince the court to terminate the restraining order altogether. Some of the best Connecticut criminal lawyers have succeeded in modifying domestic violence protective orders. Although it is a cumbersome and intense court process that usually requires an evidentiary hearing, a successful motion for modifying a domestic violence protective order can reunite you with your children and spouses. So if you are interested in modifying or fighting your domestic violence protective restraining order, give a top domestic violence lawyer a call today.

    Is There a Distinction Between Connecticut Criminal Protective Orders & Civil Restraining Orders?

    In the State of Connecticut, protective orders are issued by the criminal court system. And with every domestic violence arrest, a criminal protective order is issued by a criminal court at your first court appearance, which is also called the arraignment.

    On the other hand, the Connecticut family court system issues civil restraining orders. Civil restraining orders do not arise from a Connecticut domestic violence arrest and are instead ordered by the family court after a restraining order application is filed. Once a family court judge reviews the application, a temporary restraining order is sometimes issued, and a full evidentiary hearing is scheduled.

    Although “restraining orders” in Connecticut are issued by civil courts while “protective orders” are issued by criminal courts, for the purposes of this article and for simplicity’s sake, we have used them interchangeably.

    Civil or criminal protective and restraining orders look virtually identical in form and substance. Essentially, there are three categories of criminal protective orders in Connecticut. The least restrictive is referred to as a “Partial” or “Limited” protective order, which allows full contact and co-habitation, but prohibits threats, violence, or harassment against the protected person. The next category is called the “Full” or “Residential Stay-Away” which allows physical and verbal contact but prohibits you from entering the protected person’s home or workplace. Finally, the most restrictive is the “Full No Contact” protective order, which prevents any and all contact with the protected person under any circumstances, and will sometimes extend to the protected person’s children and family members, even if these children are yours, and are living in your home, which you own, and for which you pay the mortgage!

    Most Connecticut protective order modification hearings challenge the propriety of the last two types of Connecticut restraining orders: the Full No Contact and Full Residential Stay-Away protective restraining orders. Especially when restraining orders like these are imposed in connection with minor domestic violence 53a-182 Disorderly Conduct arrests. How can the Court issue such an onerous and restrictive restraining order for such a minor charge? Isn’t this an abuse of process? Fair questions—and ones which should be considered in your modification hearing.

    Many times people arrested for domestic violence in Connecticut try to modify their protective orders themselves. As the best criminal lawyers have observed, going it alone can be risky. Why wouldn’t you consult a top criminal lawyer who has won these restraining order modification hearings in the past? Notwithstanding, a consultation with a top Greenwich Connecticut domestic violence lawyer is probably a good idea prior to walking into any Connecticut domestic violence restraining order modification hearing.

    Can My Connecticut Criminal Protective Restraining Order Be Modified?

    Yes. Normally, once a domestic violence restraining order is issued, a criminal protective order stays in place for the entire duration of your case. However, domestic violence defendants—and sometimes even the victims of a domestic violence arrest—will often hire a top domestic violence criminal lawyer to modify their protective order or restraining order. To start the modification process, your top criminal lawyer needs to file a motion to modify the protective order, laying out the legal and factual grounds for modification. They also need to begin communicating with family relations officers, victim advocates, social workers, and their own mental health professionals to present the strongest argument at the modification hearing. Witnesses may need to be subpoenaed as well. Connecticut domestic violence prosecutors and judges proceed very cautiously with these modification motions, so it is best to be extremely prepared for these hearings as you may only get one shot at modifying and fighting the restraining order for up to a 6-week period.

    Why Would a Connecticut Domestic Violence Victim Want to Modify a Restraining Protective Order?

    Believe it or not, some victims of domestic violence arrests do not agree with the restraining orders that are ordered in their spouse’s domestic violence arrests. These are cases when a domestic violence judge or prosecutor believes a “cooling off” period is necessary in light of the specific circumstances of a particular Connecticut domestic violence case—even if the victim tells the court that you are not a physical threat to their safety. In situations like these, victims actually have the right to fight these criminal protective orders, and can hire a domestic violence victim lawyer to urge the court to reduce the restrictions on their restraining orders. Top attorneys and lawyers regularly advocate aggressively for their victim clients to lift and relax the restraining orders that are keeping their loved ones out of the house. What courts sometimes fail to appreciate is how expensive and emotionally taxing court-ordered separation can be to a marriage and a family. We have seen some of the best lawyers offer testimony from child psychologists who testify how psychologically damaging a residential stay away restraining order has impacted a defendant’s child. This is a perfect example of when a domestic violence court should consider all of the consequences of its actions at a restraining order modification hearing. For these reasons, if you are a victim of a  domestic violence arrest and want to fight a restraining order, contact a top criminal attorney to begin the modification process.

    Can I Modify the Protective Order Without the Court’s Permission?

    NO. A domestic violence protective order remains in effect until 1 of 3 things happen: (1) the charges are dropped by the prosecutor (called a nolle), (2) the charges are dismissed by the Court at trial; or (3) the court grants a motion for modification of the protective order prior to the conclusion of your case. That’s it. No exceptions.

    It is important to remember that only a Superior Court judge can modify a protective order. Sometimes a domestic violence victim may feel they are ready to “go back to normal” and forgive the person arrested for the domestic violence crime. However, making up and reconciling with the victim in a domestic violence arrest does not give you the right to ignore a court-issued criminal protective order. You must wait until the order has been modified. So if you are bound by a “Full No Contact” or a “Full / Residential Stay-Away” restraining order, and your husband or wife has cooled off, changed their mind, or has invited you back to your house, you will be breaking the law and subject to a felony arrest for Criminal Violation of a Protective Order.

    How Quickly Can I Get a Hearing in Court on My Domestic Violence Restraining Order?

    The answer to this question depends on whether you or your top domestic violence lawyer attorney requested a “Fernando A.” Hearing at your domestic violence arrest arraignment. This is a special evidentiary hearing that Connecticut domestic violence law allows you to have very quickly after your first court appearance. In some Connecticut jurisdictions, you can usually be granted one within two weeks’ time. In busier jurisdictions, it may take a little longer. However, to invoke your “Fernando A” hearing rights, you must preserve them at your domestic violence arrest arraignment. To learn more about “Fernando A” domestic violence restraining protective order hearings, contact a top lawyer for a consultation.

    What Is Needed to Modify a Domestic Violence Protective Order?

    Any top criminal attorney would agree that, in addition to hiring a lawyer, you should consider doing these 3 things in modifying a criminal protective order: (1) File a Motion in court that explains the factual and legal grounds for modifying the order; (2) Meet with the Office of Family Relations; and (3) Have witnesses testify in your court hearing that will help you modify the order but will not jeopardize your underlying domestic violence criminal case.

    Action Item 1: Filing a Motion to Modify Your Domestic Violence Criminal Protective Order

    You cannot just show up at your domestic violence criminal court date and ask the judge to modify or terminate a Connecticut criminal protective or restraining order. The judge, prosecutor, Family Relations officers, and victim advocates all need plenty of notice of your modification motion so they can conduct the proper degree of diligence on your request. Many investigative and procedural steps need to be taken prior to the court ruling on your motion. So as any of the best lawyers would point out, the very first step is to file a motion for modification of the protective order. In addition to filing it with the criminal court clerk, a copy of the motion needs to be served on the domestic violence prosecutor, the Office of Family Relations, and the Victim Advocate. The motion should spell out the legal and factual grounds for why the protective order should be modified.

    Action Item 2: Get In Touch with the Office of Family Relations

    If the Office of Family Relations has retained your domestic violence arrest for Disorderly Conduct, Violation of Protective Order, or Strangulation, then the social workers in this office will be monitoring you throughout the entire duration of your case. Accordingly, the Superior Court judge who presides over your motion to modify the restraining order will look to the Family Relations Officer overseeing your case for their risk assessment analysis and recommendation on your motion. They will also hear the recommendations from the prosecutor, Victim Advocate, Victim’s attorney, and even the Victim if he or she wishes to be heard. No matter what any of these participants say at your domestic violence protective order hearing, it is up to the judge to make the final decision. With that said, however, it is a very good idea for you to meet with a Family Relations Officer during the early stages of your case and prior to your Connecticut restraining order modification hearing. Just remember that anything you say to a Family Relations Officer can be used against you in your underlying criminal case. That’s why it is always a good idea to prepare for your Family Relations interview with any of the top criminal domestic violence lawyers.

    On the morning of your first court date for your domestic violence arrest, as well as a few weeks after your first court date, a Family Relations Officer will want to interview you. During the interview, the Family Relations Officer assigned to your case may ask in-depth questions about the events leading to your arrest, and any meaningful progress you have made in treatment, counseling or rehabilitation. If physical or verbal contact has been allowed between you and the alleged victim in your case, the Family Relations Officer may ask about the status of your current relationship. Are you living together? Are you speaking peacefully and amicably? Have there been any threats or violent interactions? This interview is meant to assist the court and the domestic violence prosecutor during the case, but can be intimidating, especially to someone who has never been arrested before and is unfamiliar with the court system.

    Action Items 3: Prepare for Your Domestic Violence Restraining Order Modification Hearing

    Soon after your motion for modification is filed, the Criminal Clerk’s office will usually notify you of a hearing date for your modification motion. At the hearing, you will have the opportunity to present evidence to the domestic violence court judge to demonstrate why the protective order should be modified. You may subpoena and call witnesses and present documentary evidence, as well as surveillance evidence. The alleged victim or his or her attorney will have a chance to speak to the judge. The Family Relations Officer and Victim Advocate may weigh in as well. Finally, the domestic violence prosecutor will offer the State’s position.

    With so many moving parts to a Protective Order Modification Motion hearing, it is very important you understand the process, are prepared to make arguments, present evidence, and challenge the evidence presented against you. A top domestic violence criminal lawyer can assist you with crafting the strongest arguments, so consider contacting one for a consultation. Ultimately, after all the parties have been heard, the judge will decide whether to grant the motion for modification. If the motion is granted, the modified order will go into effect that day.

    What If My Restraining Order Modification Motion Is Denied?

    Unfortunately, domestic violence cases—and the restraining orders issued in connection with them—can last a long time. Sometimes they can last for over two years. So if you lose your criminal protective order modification hearing, a top criminal attorney will wait for the appropriate amount of time to pass before attempting to modify a protective order. In other words, it can be beneficial to wait until the Court perceives that the family members involved have “cooled off” and that you have made meaningful progress in treatment and counseling.

    Can I Get Arrested for Violating a Connecticut Civil Restraining Order or Violating a Connecticut Criminal Protective Order?

    Yes. It’s actually a felony. The consequences for violating a civil restraining order or a domestic violence criminal protective order can be severe – sometimes more severe than the consequences of the underlying charges.

    You can be arrested for Violation of Criminal Protective Order under CGS 53a-223. This is a Class D Felony, and carries up to 5 years in prison. Getting arrested for Violation of a Civil Restraining Order under CGS 53a-223b is a separate Class D Felony that is likewise punishable by up to 5 years in jail. (It is important to note that you can be charged criminally for violating a civil restraining order, even though the underlying order is civil in nature).

    Connecticut violations of criminal protective orders or civil restraining orders are broadly interpreted and taken very seriously. Even non-threatening conduct can be a violation. For example, with a “Full No Contact” protective order, you cannot contact the protected person by any means or media – meaning no messages sent through a third party, no Facebook posts, Tweets, text messages, e-mails – no contact whatsoever. Connecticut courts are serious about prosecuting violations of these orders, arresting you for even the most “technical” and non-threatening violations of protective and restraining orders.

    Contact a Domestic Violence Restraining Order Lawyer at Mark Sherman Law Today

    So if you have arrested for a domestic violence crime, and would like to try and modify your criminal restraining protective order, contact a Mark Sherman Law criminal attorney today. We understand how frustrating it can be to ordered out of your home, and restricted from having contact with your husband, wife or children. Sometimes it takes an experienced domestic violence attorney to persuade a domestic violence court to relax its protective order restrictions. So call us today for a consultation. We are available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.